Can you tell a bit about yourself, how and why you got into music, a bit about your history and how you became successful?
I started getting into music in my early teens with my mum getting me into piano lessons and guitar. Like a lot of kids, I wasn’t really interested. However, my 3rd piano teacher taught me to play around and experiment. From that point I started to have a spark and interest!
I then got involved with skateboard culture, which introduced me to early punk and hiphop music. What I really loved about the early hiphop stuff was the synthetic sound of the drums and how raw it was. At the time it paralleled with my interests in punk music, which was also very DIY. I loved the energy of punk and the synthetic grooviness of hiphop and was looking for the fusion of both musical forms. In 93/94 I discovered Industrial music, which was like the perfect hybrid. In 96/97 I bought a record by a group called Meat Beat Manifesto, a 12″ called Mindstream with a remix by Aphex Twin on Warp records. It changed my life. It was almost like the music of the future for me. I followed that “IDM/glitch” genre and since have released a string of 12/13 Eps, up to 50 remixes and 4 full-length albums. In 1999/2000 I signed a deal with Warp, to release my first official album and started touring the world.
I also got into doing more commercial work after working with Native Instruments in 2001 as a sound designer. All of a sudden all of these people who weren’t even listening to my music were now hearing my patches/sounds and textures. I didn’t realise that Native Instruments would be so successful! They really became a huge industry player, and were one of the first virtual software companies. I was just creating really wacky/crazy new innovative sounds, and Native really dug that. Shortly after, other major keyboard manufacturers started to approach me to do sounds. At the same time I did some TV spots for Nike and from there was another snowball into a whole other area of sound for TV, film, web and video games.
I’ve worked on some pretty crazy projects, which people all around the world can hear, from doing interface sounds for major computer operating systems, to iphone applications. I see an advert for Xbox or someone and think, “hey that’s my sound!” and it’s playing in countries all over the world, no matter what language or culture. It’s a great feeling to have something that affects people on a global level in a positive way.
How did you discover JazzMutant’s controllers?
I had seen few friends use them in the San Francisco Bay Area. Having also been a big Max/MSP user for years I was going through their site and saw the controller. It dawned on me that I hadn’t given the Lemur a real solid look. Since what I do is so specialised, using unique instruments etc, I realised that this might be the one and only interface for me to work on all my projects all the time.
I did my homework, looked on the JazzMutant website, went to the artist page and noticed that ten of my good friends were up on there! From that point I knew that I needed to get in contact.
My first performance and interaction with the Lemur was at Recombinant Media Labs in San Francisco. I was booked to play with Trevor Whishart who is one of my favourite electro acoustic composers. Naut Humon was the creator and organizer of the event, and let us come play on the audio-visual system known as Surround Traffic Control. This full fidelity array consists of a design specification for 10 screens in 360 degrees supported by an ultra impact 16.8.2 horizontal and vertical sound diffusion system scalable for all types of rectangular rooms. It was amazing to perform there, as it was like hearing my sound in high definition 3D!
I was able to control the sound-panning trajectories with the Lemur touch screen, which was feeding data into MAX. I had faders, and graphical balls, and density controls to throw the balls into a chaotic motion assigning 16 different sounds around the room from floor to ceiling. You could hear real fly by Doppler effects; it was like being in an asteroid field of sound effects. The Lemur let me control the sounds in ways I never dreamed of. You could say at that point I was sold.
The first thing I noticed about the Lemur was that it is solidly built with a very beautiful, elegant, interface. I realised very quickly that you could really customise and tailor it to the way you work. It is very rare to have a controller so customisable. You can choose how big or small the buttons, sliders or whatever kind of interface/object you want are, what behaviour they will do… I’ve had mine for 5/6 months now and absolutely in love with it. It’s weird, I’ve gone through 30-40 different MIDI controllers and this is the only one, which I got really addicted to! I carry it around my house with my laptop and I can’t have it disconnected because I’ve got used to how easy it is to have it at my fingertips.
Why did you choose to use it above other products on the market?
The openness of everything you can do with the controller. There’s a wide range of objects, especially with the new V2 software, which gives you a wide variety of different approaches to control sound in a fluid interesting manner not typical to the traditional slider, button, fader controllers.
The fact that you can customise it to the point where you can do pretty much whatever you want really was one of the things that really hit it off for me. Right out of the box, when I tried it with Reaktor I was already getting sounds that I was not able to get using typical CC automation, mouse or other controllers. Having a hardware controller with 8 knobs, and faders was a bit limiting for me. I wanted something that would offer me way more flexibility.
With the Lemur I realized it could go as far as I wanted, or I could create as many graphical controllers as I desired. You can have a ball bouncing around in a room with zero friction and have these automating parameters very quickly. Or it could be doing frequency modulation – you could even have ten of them! I love the idea of this chaotic free-flowing sort of manipulation and connection with the sound. It’s really amazing, like having extra hands doing the work for you.
How has using the controller changed the way you work?
The Lemur has changed the way I work drastically; I don’t think I could use anything else now. I’ve never had anything that was so easy. It’s just so simple to tap around and I feel as if I’m saving my hands after all the mouse clicks I did for all these years! You can make a combination of key commands into one button; it’s so customisable and saves you so much time. I’ve become twice as efficient in the studio now, wasting less time doing the redundant things that I would normally do with key commands or my mouse; now I’m doing them with shortcuts on the Lemur. It’s helped out in so many ways.
The most important aspect is the new sounds I’ve been getting by using the Lemur because of the way you can control the software. You can’t control software like you can with the Lemur; the closest is with Max/MSP but not with the same elegance and tactile interaction that is so important. I can feel the manipulation and I’m shaping the sound almost like a sculpture piece because you have such a tight connection and level of control, it’s brilliant!
What do you find most useful about it in terms of features?
I can save my templates on the Lemur’s memory and recall them from a snapshot browser at any second and they are immediately loaded.
I love the Jazzeditor and the ability to go in to either an existing Lemur patch or create something on your own. Giving you that level of control is the most incredible thing! Normally, with controllers you’re stuck with predefined parameters and a fixed structure and you have to somehow apply that to what you’re working with. It may work with certain applications better or at other times it may not work so well, but having the editor on the Lemur, being able to tweak things to the way that works for you, is absolutely key. It’s a constantly mutating device that will be exactly what you want it to be in each situation. I use Max/Bidule/Reaktor a lot and I tend to call them the Swiss Army Knives of my studio. The Lemur is now the Swiss Army Knife of my controllers because it’s able to adapt to any situation, it’s the ultimate chameleon of MIDI controllers. It’s mind-blowing!
What would you like to see in future revisions of the software?
The only thing that I would change is a way for a Lemur file to be able to also load up the appropriate instrument, automatically shooting over any necessary MIDI config files so you’re good to go and don’t have to worry about loading it in separately. If this was possible it is the only thing I would change. It’s probably the most beautiful-looking thing I’ve seen for a long time!
What are your plans for the near future?
I started a small sound design company DEVSND () in 2007 and we’ve been releasing sample libraries and signed a major deal with Sony. We won our first award (Remix Technology Award) at NAMM this year! I’m starting to do more high-level sound design projects for some of these big companies and eventually the company will launch an online library, probably next year, for really high quality sound for Film, TV, Web, and video game sound applications. I also plan to create a new sound effects library with Hollywood Edge sometime next year, and I continue to work doing sound design for many other software/hardware companies So my schedule is always busy. As far as production goes, I’ve been doing lots of remixes. I’ve just finished a remix for Sector 9, and just finished remixing BT’s Les Nocturnes De Lumiere Track. I’ve just finished an joint EP with Jimmy Edgar for Detroit Underground, and hopefully amongst all the crazy madness going on this year I’m trying to finish up my surround-DVD album; a 5.1 DVD album of some pretty intimidating electro-acoustic music! Very bizarre and pretty out there.